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Melanesia Origins

MELANESIA ORIGINS

Modern evidence, including DNA analysis confirms the opinion that modern man, in the form of Homo sapiens, first came out of Africa as early as 160,000 years ago. Of the pioneers who moved across Asia, one group moved south-east down through the Indo-Malaysian archipelago, crossing over into Australia during a brief window of opportunity 65,000 years ago when water levels dropped. They also reached Papua possibly as early as 65,000 years ago eventually moving from there across the Pacific.

Modern discoveries, including genetic research, has confirmed the view that modern man with Homo sapiens first evolved out of Africa. This is based on continuing widespread evidence, including genetic research and that derived from fossils, artifacts, archaeological sites and, more recently from the use of genetic surveys that indicate a remarkable similarity between all human beings. In summary, the evidence still suggests that all modern humans have descended from East African ancestors who first emerged some 100,000 years ago.

Indeed, all humans outside Africa - from Australian aborigines to Icelanders - are descended from just one small group of modern humans that made their exodus from Africa less than 100,000 years ago. It is now possible to show that any two people from around the globe, share a common ancestry by comparing their DNA. It is also now possible to show where those ancestors live and when they left their homeland.

The first known pre-historic man has been given the name Homo ergaster who arose in Africa some 1.9 million years ago. He is linked to Homo erectus who developed from, and eventually replaced Homa ergaster, in Africa and Asia. Homo ergaster has been identified with early stone tool technology.

Homo erectus arose approximately 1.6 million years ago and populated Africa, Asia and Europe. They were supplemented about 40,000 years ago by archaic Homo species, although a Javanese group may have been a contemporary of Homo sapiens.

Modern man in the form of Homo sapiens arose in Africa some 160,000 years ago from Homo erectus. Homo sapiens were distinguished by lighter skeletons and bigger brains than earlier Homo groups, whom they eventually displaced in populating the globe.

In migrating out of Africa, it is apparent that Homo sapiens displaced their predecessors in western Asia about 45,000 years ago then moving north and west as they did in Europe. One group moved east across Asia while another moved south-east down through the Indo-Malaysian archipelago island-hopping to Australia and eventually out across the Pacific Islands possibly displacing relic populations of a much earlier human ancestor, Homo erectus. 

The time scales suggested to this migration agrees reasonably well with evidence from hundreds of archaeological sites across Australia. Unpublished research also indicates that in Borneo and Timor that humans first reached the Australian continent at least 45,000 years ago. Many researchers are also of the view that Homo sapiens possibly reached Australia as early as 75,000 years ago.

The human beings who reached both Papua and the Australian continent must have been accomplished seafarers. They most likely came from the north in boats, possibly outrigger canoes which were capable of being steered safely across at least a hundred kilometers of open sea. That was the shortest possible voyage from the nearest point of land in Timor. At that time, New Guinea, Australia and Tasmania were still joined in a single land mass. All the coastal sites that may have contained direct traces of this migration were inundated by a 120 meter rise in sea level at the end of the most recent ice age.

In recognizing the fact that the eastern islands of the Indo-Malaysian archipelago which formed the migration path from Asia have never been linked to either Papua New Guinea or Australia suggests that the first inhabitants of these regions came from a seafaring coastal culture.

Certainly, the evidence now suggests that the early inhabitants of Melanesian Papua New Guinea arrived in the region much earlier than previously thought. This arrival was at least 40,000 years ago with carbon dating of camp sites confirming an occupancy of at least 25,000 years. What is apparent also is that these early Melanesians came from a seafaring culture and were capable of making voyages of at least 100 kilometers of open sea.

Archaeologists believe that Polynesian people came from a small central group on the island of Taiwan. Genetic studies have now indicated the manner that the ancestors of the sailors of the great canoes started out on their journey further along the trail in eastern Indonesia.

Researchers in New Zealand have also recently concluded that the male and female ancestors of Maori came from different places. The team, from Victoria University in Wellington, have found that Maori women have genetic markers that suggest their ancestors came from mainland South-east Asia, probably about 6,000 years ago. As they travelled south from island to island, it appears that Melanesian men joined the men and women on the boat, with a small group of people eventually arriving in New Zealand about 1,000 years ago.

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